The visual acuities of 1625 individuals recruited to a community-based clinical trial of ivermectin in southern Sierra Leone were measured, and the prevalence of visual loss in this rural population where onchocerciasis is hyperendemic was determined. Ocular examination was performed before treatment to establish the cause of visual loss. Using WHO definitions, 1.3% were blind (less than 3/60 in both eyes), 4.3% were visually impaired (between 6/24 and 3/60 in the better eye), and a further 3.4% were uniocularly blind (less than 3/60 in one eye and better than 6/24 in the other). Cataract and onchocerciasis were the major causes of visual loss in this population. More than half of the ocular morbidity was preventable or treatable by public health measures or basic curative medicine. These findings are discussed in the light of the available health and eye care services.
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